Top 22 Worst Refereeing Decisions in World Football History

Vijay MuraliAnalyst IOctober 30, 2011

Top 22 Worst Refereeing Decisions in World Football History

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    In world football, referees have one of the toughest jobs, as every one of their decisions could have a major role in the outcome of the game, and possibly the season as well.

    Every referee has to make difficult decisions and will get criticized at some point of time by players, managers and the fans.

    The good referees are those who can live with criticism and can make the correct decision most of the times.

    An official's instincts are crucial to their decision making and there is every possibility of him making a serious blunder in a game.

    For example, the Chelsea vs. Barcelona game in the Champions League a couple of seasons ago drew the ire of Chelsea players, in particular Michael Ballack, who went so far as to run alongside the official for at least 10 yards, screaming and flailing his arms in anger. It was a difficult game for the referee and he came under immense scrutiny.

    Similarly, in the game between Arsenal and Barcelona, Robin van Persie's very harsh sending-off proved to be the difference as the Blaugrana went on to win the tie and also the trophy.

    A referee's decisions have a major impact in the game and it is important that common sense is displayed on the pitch. However, there have been a number of blatant blunders by officials in the past.

    Here are 22 of the worst errors.

1. Leeds vs. West Brom (1970-71 Season)

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    Leeds United were in the midst of a title challenge when this inexplicable decision by Ray Tinkler cost them this game and ultimately, the title. The linesman signals West Brom player Colin Suggett offside and the Leeds defense stops dead, but Tinkler allows play to continue and Jeff Astle scores the goal. As a result, Leeds lost their title to Arsenal, leaving their manager and players devastated.

2. Frank Lampard's Disallowed Goal in England vs. Germany

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    England against Germany is a fixture that attracts plenty of interest around the world. Though Germany were the better side in this 2010 World Cup encounter, it is still possible that the game could have changed if this goal had been given.

    With England 2-0 down, they pulled one back through Steven Gerrard's superb free-kick to find Matthew Upson. Some time later, Frank Lampard scores a perfectly legitimate goal to equalize, but he is denied because of a poor decision from the linesman.

3. Thierry Henry's Handball for France vs. Ireland

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    With France on the brink of failing to qualify for the 2010 World Cup, France striker Thierry Henry committed a blatant handball which helped the country qualify for the tournament at the expense of Ireland, who were fuming at the end of the game.

    This incident tarnished Henry's image and though there were calls to replay the game, the decision stood, with Henry becoming forever a villain in the eyes of the Irish.

4. Pedro Mendes' Disallowed Goal in Manchester United vs. Tottenham

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    Tottenham's Pedro Mendes thought that he had scored a sensational winner right at the death with a long-range shot which was fumbled badly by Manchester United's Roy Carroll.

    It was a horrible goalkeeping blunder, but the referee commits a bigger error in saving Carroll the embarrassment. He failed to spot the ball crossing the line, which should have been clearly observed.

5. Australia vs. Equatorial Guinea (Blatant Handball)

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    This handball, which is committed by Equatorial Guinea in the 2011 Women's World Cup, is as blatant a handball as you will ever come across. And that's why it is on this list.

    An Australian player strikes the post and the rebound is caught by a Equatorial Guinea player. She casually throws it to the goalkeeper like she's done nothing wrong. The referee fails to spot this penalty, which baffles Australia and anybody else who saw the incident.

6. Nani's Goal Against Tottenham

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    This is one of the weirdest goals that you would see. It isn't a goalkeeper error, but rather because the referee makes a big blunder.

    It is clear that Nani catches the ball and play should have been stopped for handball. Referee Mark Clattenburg does not do it and Heurelho Gomes puts the ball on the ground to kick it. Nani kicks the ball straight into the net, capitalizing on Clattenburg's error and the referee allows it to stand.

7. Paul Gascoigne Flashes a Yellow Card and Receives One

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    Paul Gascoigne was one of the most talented footballers to emerge in England, but he was also a entertainer.

    In this video, referee Dougie Smith drops his yellow card on the pitch. Gascoigne gives it back to the referee in characteristic fashion flashing the yellow at the referee. However, Smith failed to see the lighter side and booked him for his behavior.

8. Referee Scores Goal for Ankaragucu vs Besiktas

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    There are not many referees who play good football, but the referee in this game proves that he is a good goalscorer as he heads this cross into the back of the net. Amazingly though, he does award the goal, leaving the Besiktas players bewildered.

9. Spain vs. South Korea, World Cup 2002

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    South Korea had a dream World Cup in 2002, but they were aided in no small part by the officials, who influenced the games against Spain and Italy to a great extent.

    Spain were disallowed what looked like two perfectly legitimate goals, with the second blunder the worse of the two. The first one was disallowed for "pushing in the area," while the second one was taken back because it was ruled that the ball had gone out of play before being crossed.

    In the game against Italy, again another goal was wrongly not given because of an offside call. The Italians' various penalty claims throughout the match were denied. Not to mention the fact that Francesco Totti was sent off for diving.

10. Brazilian Ball Boy's Goal

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    This is another very bizarre decision by a referee who decides to award the goal despite none of the players claiming the goal immediately after the shot is taken.

    This is because the shot is wide, but a cheeky ball boy places another ball in the goal and the goal is wrongly awarded in favor of Santacruzense against Atletico Sorocaba. As a result, the Brazilian referee was handed a suspension.

11. Goalkeeper's Horrible Foul in France vs. Germany, 1982

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    France, with Michel Platini, had a good chance of winning the 1982 World Cup, but they were beaten by Germany. However, it was not before this hugely controversial moment occurred in the game.

    France's Patrick Battiston had only the ball between himself and German goalkeeper Harald Schumacher, but the goalkeeper barged into the striker, knocking out the Frenchman.

    Amazingly, the referee failed to send the goalkeeper off and instead awarded a goal-kick to Germany.

12. Emerson Acuna's Theatric Dive

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    Emerson Acuna is a name that is not familiar to most of us, but this dive and the wrongly awarded penalty is why he is on this list. He is nowhere even close to a player, but the Colombian dives theatrically and the referee fails to spot the dive.

    Instead, he awards a penalty, much to the ire of the opposing team. His team Atletico Juniors converted the penalty and went on to win the game 2-0. However, he did get sent off later in the game.

13. Graham Poll Brandishing Three Yellow Cards to Croatia's Josip Simunic

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    English referee Graham Poll made a terrible error at the 2006 World Cup in a game between Australia and Croatia when he showed three yellow cards to the same Croatian player, Josip Simunic. He was regarded as a fine referee and had a chance of refereeing the final, until this match.

    However, after the incident, he was sent home early and has not refereed a international game since, to his disappointment.

14. Robert Hoyzer's Match-Fixing Scandal

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    German referee Robert Hoyzer was involved in a match-fixing scandal after he accepted a bribe to ensure that Hamburg were knocked out in a German Cup tie against lower league Paderborn.

    Paderborn were 2-0 down when the referee decided to award two penalties and also send a player off, which contributed to Hamburg's defeat.

    Hoyzer was bribed with £46,000 and a flat-screen television. He was later sentenced to spend two years and five months in prison.

15. Watford vs. Reading: The "Ghost Goal"

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    Referee Stuart Attwell made one of the most bizarre decisions when he awarded this a goal after his linesman said that he had seen the ball cross the line. The ball is nowhere close to the goal line and not surprisingly, Watford fans, players and the manager were fuming after that decision by the referee.

16. Mourad Daami's Mistake in the African Nations Cup

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    Referee Mourad Daami failed to see a Nigeria penalty clearly cross the line in the penalty shootout against Cameroon in the final of the 2000 African Cup of Nations.

    Cameroon went on to win the shootout, 4-3, which could have been different if he had awarded the Nigerian goal correctly. However, the referee's error meant Cameroon won the tournament and riots followed in the aftermath of that incident.

17. Referee Fails to Spot the Goal and Hand-Ball as Well

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    Referee Les Mottram made one of the worst decisions ever when he failed to spot this goal scored by Dundee United's Paddy Connolly.

    The corner is flicked on and Connolly clearly knocks it into the goal. The ball then rebounds after it hits the net. The defender then calmly catches the ball and then throws it to the keeper. The referee who fails to spot any of this waves play on, much to the surprise of everyone.

18. Wrongly Awarded Goal in Duisburg vs. Frankfurt

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    It does seem that this is an inconsequential decision to make considering that Duisberg are four goals ahead, but still, this has to be considered as one of the worst decisions.

    It is clear even without replays that the ball does not bounce close to the goal line, but neither the referee nor the linesman fail to notice it. Even the striker is clearly surprised. After taking the shot, it is clear that he is disappointed, but to his surprise, he has been awarded a goal which he did not score.

19. Crystal Palace's Stanchion's Curse

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    Crystal Palace were the aggrieved team on two separate occasions, which looked identical with both hitting the stanchion and bouncing out, only for the referee to declare that it was not a goal.

    The first involved Clive Allen scoring a brilliant free-kick only to be denied by the referee. The other involves young Freddie Sears finishing clinically for Crystal Palace but is again denied by the referee, leaving Neil Warnock and others absolutely furious.

20. Zico's Disallowed Goal in the 1978 World Cup

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    This was one of the more controversial moments in the 1978 World Cup in Argentina, due to the referee Clive Thomas' bad decision to stop play just after he had awarded a corner to Brazil.

    Zico scored from that corner, but before he had, the referee had blown for full time in what could be considered as a bad decision from a official. It meant that Brazil had to win their last group game to go through and they did manage to do that, thus saving for Thomas from becoming the villain of the tournament.

21. Everton vs. Bolton in 1997

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    Everton and Bolton were both in grave danger of being relegated and this match between the two turned out to be a bitter memory for Bolton.

    Bolton's Gerry Taggart thought that he had scored and so it seemed, with the ball crossing the line. The referee said otherwise and the game ended in a draw. At the end of the season, Everton avoided relegation at Bolton's expense by just one point, making that wrong decision even more impactful.

22. Diego Maradona's Hand of God

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    Diego Maradona is one of the best ever players to have played football, but this goal by the diminutive Argentine genius was clearly scored with his hand.

    To add to the frustration of the English, he went on to score a brilliant goal, which was the best of the '86 World Cup for sure. In the video, it can be observed that Maradona uses his hand to score the goal and the referee makes the wrong decision.

    Maradona did not show any remorse and called it the "Hand of God" to rub salt into the wounds of the English.


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